Enjoying ‘Day at the Dells’ Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Sep. 05, 2019 -- 12:00 AM

dells summer outing
Bishop Donald J. Hying of Madison, along with nearly a dozen priests from the Diocese of Madison, celebrates Mass at the annual Apostolate for Persons with Disabilities-Diocese of Madison Day at the Dells. The event took place on the Tommy Bartlett Water Show grounds in Wisconsin Dells on August 23. To view or purchase photos, go to
(Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

WISCONSIN DELLS -- More than 1,000 people took part in an enjoyable summer day partaking in some longtime traditions.

Among these traditions were the Mass, something Catholics have been a part of for two millennia. Another tradition was the Tommy Bartlett Water Show in Wisconsin Dells, now in its 67th season.

These traditions, and others, were all part of the annual Day at the Dells, an event sponsored by the Apostolate for Persons with Disabilities-Diocese of Madison.

The day was canceled last year due to inclement weather, so guests were happy to be back.

Annual attendee Ray Margraf from Wautoma said, "We like the show . . . all of it . . . we enjoy it very much."

Arlene Dahlen, also from Wautoma, said it's "special" what the Apostolate does for the guests, saying to the Apostolate, "It's wonderful. God bless all of you."

Karen Wendt from Oregon said she has been to about 10 events. "I think it's something everyone should go to. They do a fantastic job." She added she is always impressed by the water show performers. "They can do anything," she said.

New faces

There were some new faces at the event, as well.

One was Bishop Donald J. Hying of Madison, who has been bishop here since June. He celebrated the Mass, along with Msgr. Larry Bakke, director of the Apostolate, and more than a dozen priests from the diocese.

Before Mass, the Cantate Youth Choir from St. Cecilia Parish in Wisconsin Dells made their first appearance at the event, singing songs such as "Peace Like a River" on the shore of Lake Delton.

At the start of the Mass, Bishop Hying welcomed everyone and said, "We're gathered in God's great cathedral of nature as he made it to give praise and worship to God."

He jokingly added that his life was "fulfilled" seeing his name next to that of Tommy Bartlett's on promotional materials for the event.

Later, in his homily, he said, "The Gospel today is all about the love of God."

Bishop Hying added that the most important thing is to "Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength."

He continued that despite one's challenges and limitations "all of us have a heart, we can all love God, and we can all love others."

"God loves you, and there's nothing you can do about it," Bishop Hying said joyfully.

Serving others

As part of Monsignor Bakke's words of thanks and greetings to everyone for coming, he said to the scores of guests, "This is all about service -- just settle back and be served on this gracious day."

There were many examples of service throughout the day.

As guests arrived at the water show, Tommy Bartlett staff members gave them a golf cart ride to the grandstands, or helped push their wheelchairs.

Staff members also escorted the guests to their seats if they needed help, including lifting up and carrying wheelchairs to seating areas.

During the Mass, the concelebrating priests walked among those in attendance and distributed Communion to those who could receive it.

Also during Mass, volunteers of all ages with the Apostolate helped to pack the sack lunches that were distributed by Apostolate volunteers and Tommy Bartlett staff members to the guests.

Volunteer nurses were also on hand to assist as needed.

After Mass, Bishop Hying walked among the guests, shaking hands, meeting, and greeting as many of them as he could.

For a lot of people, this was their first time meeting the new bishop, and many of them introduced themselves and told him what parish they were from in the Diocese of Madison.

As recycling and trash were collected by staff members, the water show got underway.

This year's theme was the life of Tommy Bartlett -- who brought the water show to the area in the early 1950s.

Some water skiing acts, with new and younger performers, were featured that were from those early shows.

Acts and music from subsequent decades followed for the entertainment of the audience.

In his usual role of comic relief, Aqua the Clown performed his water tricks with a humorous flair.

Leaving to go out and love

As the show came to a close, it was nearing time to go home.

Volunteers and staff helped the guests back up the hill and to their buses or other vehicles waiting for them.

Seeing the example of all those who helped, and were served, the time following the Day at the Dells was a chance to reflect on Bishop Hying's words that "Each one of us here has remarkable abilities and gifts. Each one of us here has challenges and difficulties. Each one of us here is very different, and yet what holds us in common is we all have a soul and we all have a heart. We're all made in the image and likeness of God, which makes us brothers and sisters to each other, because God's love for us is infinite and perfect."

About the Apostolate

The Apostolate for Persons with Disabilities-Diocese of Madison works to promote the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in the life of the Church.

Every baptized person, regardless of their abilities, has received a special vocation to holiness, and the Apostolate strives to promote their participation in local parishes and diocesan events.

For more information about the Apostolate for Persons with Disabilities-Diocese of Madison and the programs and services it offers, go to

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